Lynne d Johnson



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05.24.08 11:34 PM

WebVisions, The Unkeynote, and Is Print Dead?

Back from Portland, OR and presenting the Day 1 Keynote there. Learned a great bit of stuff in various sessions, and met a bunch of cool people. More to come on that both here and over at my blog, "Digital Media Diva."

When I opened the presentation, I surveyed the room for how many users of Facebook, Twitter, and Friendfeed. Of course, lots of Facebook. Good numbers on Twitter too. Quite a bit less on Friendfeed though. But the overwhelming response gave me an idea to try something, something I had been thinking about already. What if I took this slot I had for a keynote and turned it into the ultimate unkeynote -- a Twitter conversation or Facebook feed. I even joked to the audience to leave comments to 140 characters. It was not at all the way it went down.

Already, an extremely debatable topic -- whether print is dead -- immediately opened up a flurry of conversation. It was an infinite feedback loop, with my slideshow providing the jumpoff points. For the most part, the crowd loved it. There were others who were initially agitated that they didn't get a typical keynote, but after talking with some of them one-on-one they got the point of what I attempted with an unkeynote format, and further, the point of the overall talk. It's a conversation that has no definitive conclusion. A conversation that won't end, not at least for another 10 - 20 years. (The original inspiration for this talk came from a piece I'd written for New York Press in July 2006 -- "The Changing Face of Publishing.")

But I also gained something from the audience. It was a give and take, much like my role as Community Director at The more I learn about social media and communities, the more I learn that it's not a push medium. For it to work, it has to be push and pull. You can't build it and expect them to come. You've got to go and meet them, where they are. It's the thing that's upending most old media now -- the unwillingness to be participants. With that said, what I've learned and gained can work its way into another presentation on this topic. The next time, I can stretch the boundaries further, add more slides, more graphs, more anecdotes, more examples, better transitions in the talk overall.

As for my decision on making it an unkeynote, I have no apologies to the ones who didn't get it or the talk overall. Truth is, I attend a lot of conferences and I spent a lot of years in college. In all of those experiences, I find myself feeling like I'm being talked at -- sometimes I'm bored, sometimes I fall asleep, sometimes I want to ask questions or provide feedback and there's not enough time left for loads of inquisitive people to respond. Because of this, I took another tack. And I learned, after it was all over, that others were looking for something like this -- a different approach to a keynote presentation. The feedback loop even inspired a last minute slide in Jason Grigsby's presentation, "Going Fast On The Mobile Web."

I'm not the first to practice an unkeynote. Others who organize unconferences have thought about this in the same way that I have. Jeff Jarvis even approached The Unkeynote back in 2006.

Here's the hashtag for Webvisions to see some of what was going on on Twitter about the conference.

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